Background: Google Sites is a structured website creation tool, part of the free, web-based Google suite offered by Google. Starting as JotSpot, Google Sites came into being in 2008. Since 2016, Google Sites has moved away from JotSpot technology. Recently, Google Sites underwent a revamp sporting a new interface, allowing you to create and edit files online while collaborating.
Starting Price: Free
Visit Online: https://domains.google/get-started/website-design/google-sites/
Review Summary & Ratings
If you need to speedily put up a basic and simple website and collaborate with others through Google services, Google Sites could do it for you. Google Sites sports a clean and straightforward interface and seamlessly connects to other Google products. Also, you can alter the display language to your preferred language at any time.
However, if you need a fancy and advanced website, Google Sites is a bare-bone builder that may not satisfy you. Many use Google Sites to create projects where they collaborate with designated people.
- Connect to your domain at no cost
- Easy to use
- Seamless integration with Google products
- Collaborate with others
- Simple editor tightly knitted with relevant functions
- Comprehensive knowledge base
- Limited editor
- Limited templates
- Limited features
Overview: What is Google Sites?
Google Sites is Google's Content Management System (CMS) tool that allows you to create a website for free. It is a website builder where you add/edit text and the necessary web elements to your website. Your website is adaptive and thus optimized for both desktop and mobile. No coding knowledge is required. There are several pre-designed templates and themes you can leverage.
Google Domains and Google Sites work together. Register a domain with Google Domains and publish your website when ready. Yes, hosting is included. You can also point your Google Sites website to your existing domain.
Since Google Sites work with other Google products, you can expect to incorporate different functions into your website. Embed Google Docs for your product specifications and your office’s physical location on Google Maps.
Also, work with your team and co-edit in real-time Google Docs (for example). Google Analytics helps measure and track your new website's performance while giving you valuable insights.
How Does Google Sites Work? Step-by-step Demo
Google Sites have been revamped from the classic version to a new interface, facilitating a better editor powered by more advanced technology. It is best to use the updated interface as it is easier and affords you more functions.
Step 1: Go to Google Sites
Head to Google Sites and click ‘+’ to begin a new website. You can start with a blank template or peruse the available pre-designed templates.
Step 2: Start Creating Your Website
You’ll see a minimalist editor. If you have chosen a template, you will view the template ready to be customized. However, I chose a blank slate as an example. Give a name to your website. Turn your attention to the right-hand sidebar; this is your design palette, where you add layouts, text boxes, images, videos, and more to all the pages.
Step 3: Edit and Customize Your Website
Editing and customizing are simple via clicking and adding. Text boxes come with basic tools. I felt it was flexible enough when adding/editing text and images to the pages. Click a text box, and it's added to the page. Click a content block, and the same thing happens. Also, add new pages and subpages to your website. Although there's no pixel-level precision, there's sufficient control for newbies.
Embed links, code, and integrate with Google’s other services, including Google Docs, YouTube, Calendar, Map, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Charts, and social links. Embed any of your calendars through ‘Calendar' or use ‘Map’ to refer to your maps or any location.
You can select the theme and choose the color and font too.
Upload videos and images. Added images are automatically cropped to fit within the borders of the box. You can embed a link within the image or replace the image with another easily. Click YouTube to embed your YouTube uploads or others.
Click the ‘Share with others' button at the top right to share your website. Doing so enables a team to work together on the website, a useful collaborative feature.
Step 4: Preview Your Website
Click the ‘Preview’ button at the top menu. Experience your new responsive website on a phone, tablet, or computer before going live. Navigate the tiny buttons at the bottom right to select between the different devices to see how your new website displays on them.
Step 5: Publish Your Website
If you're happy with your new website, hit that ‘Publish’ button. You can choose a URL or link your website to an existing domain of yours. Also, request search engines not to display your website, especially if you're working on an internal project.
Examples of Websites Built with Google Sites
Let’s take a look at some of the captivating Google Sites websites that will inspire you to kick-start your web journey:
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Google Sites Features
Google Sites gives you a simple way to build websites. You start with pre-made templates or blank ones. However, remember that you're using a basic – yet functional – editor. Google Sites isn't powerful but more of a bare-bone builder with decent functions.
Easy Grid-based Editing
You move elements where you want them, and they'll snap into the existing design grid. There's the collapsible text where the paragraph text is visible when the subheading has been clicked. As mentioned, Google Sites relies heavily on other Google services to expand the website’s functions (Google Forms to add forms and Google Maps to embed a map).
Works Well With Google Products (Naturally)
You can connect with many Google products, including Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Plus, and other Google Apps through Google Apps Script. Give access to your team to edit the website in real-time and control who can view your website by publishing it to certain people.
Instant On-the-fly Amendments
Like other Google products, your Google Site website will automatically save changes in real time. There are different historical versions that you can review made by collaborators. Hence, you can revert to earlier versions if you want.
Comes With Some Basic SEO Tools
Google Sites offer built-in SEO tools, namely meta site title, meta site description, page meta description, heading tags, image alt tags, and page-specific descriptions. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools can track and ensure your website is SEO-friendly.
Your Google Site website enjoys security features such as encrypted connections to Google’s servers, real-time file saving, simultaneous replicated storage for multiple sites, built-in disaster recovery, and fine-grained sharing controls.
Essential Site Templates
The pre-designed templates on offer from Google Sites are limited. Click ‘Templates gallery' at the top right, and you'll see ‘Personal,' ‘Word, ‘Small business,' and ‘Education. The ‘Small business' category has the most templates, namely five. Generally speaking, the templates are nothing much to shout about. That said, they are sufficient for newbies.
Pros: What I Like
1. Easy to Use
The whole point of a website builder is to facilitate easy website-building with no coding knowledge from start to finish. Google Sites is no stranger to this. I started using Google Sites with a feeling of trepidation (I have zero programming expertise). However, as I tinkered here and there, I found that Google Sites is seriously easy to use.
The site creation page interface is typically clean, with customization options on the right side. It did not take long for me to grasp what was happening. Unlike other website builders, I took to Google Sites pretty fast. Although you cannot place things exactly anywhere on the pages (Google Sites is a structured editor), Google Sites still affords enough room for creative freedom.
Google is known to emphasize the importance of understanding users' needs and meeting them. You'll see a tutorial pop-up window to guide you through building your first website (for first-timers). Also, anytime you need a quick refresher, click the three dots on the menu bar at the top right corner and select ‘Take a tour!'.
I find Google Sites pretty intuitive and streamlined without much clutter.
2. Google Sites Is Free
It's hard to refuse freebies, and Google Sites is free with your Google account. Yes, you heard me right. Google Sites is free to build, host, and maintain your website. There are no hosting fees.
However, if you use Google Sites with Google Apps, the cost is included in the user license fee (about $50 per user per year).
Under Google Apps, Google Sites has 10GB of storage space. However, using a free Google account gives you 100MB per site, which often is fine for a small website.
3. Connect to Your Domain at Zero Cost
Most website builders that offer free plans do not allow you to connect to your domain name. Instead, they require you to use the domain name that carries their branding. Doing so does not bode well, even for small businesses. The lack of professionalism brings about doubting your sincerity in doing business.
Now, Google Sites allows you to point your website to your existing domain for free. Isn't this nifty?
4. Leverage Google's Suite of Products
If you heavily use Google services, using Google Sites is a no-brainer to expand your site's functions. The editor provides a seamless way to connect with Google's other services, including Google Docs, Forms, Calendar, Map, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Charts, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Plus, and any other Google Apps via Google Apps Script.
Also, you enjoy easy access to anything on your Google Drive since your website is linked to your Google account (via your email).
5. Tightly-Knit Editor with Relevant Functions
I liked that everything is glued together well within the editor. I can find the necessary integrations with Google services all in one place. Also, I especially liked that I could search and add images and YouTube videos directly from the Google Sites interface. You can upload your own YouTube videos or any others.
There's also the capability to add social links to leverage social media to boost your website's visibility. The customization options (although basic) more than suffices for any small website.
M-Commerce is to grow and dominate the total retail eCommerce sales worldwide. Hence, you'll lose out if you do not cater to this mass market. Google confirmed to prioritize the mobile version for indexing and ranking. Hence, if your website isn't mobile-friendly, you lose visibility in search engines; you don't want this to happen.
Google Sites' websites are fluid enough and adaptive. They adapt in terms of functionality and visual layout across devices, be they mobile, tablets, or desktops. You can preview your website on different screen sizes before going live.
7. Comprehensive Knowledge Base
Although Google Sites is easy to use, you can refer to the Sites Help for anything that needs clarification. You'll find the ‘Help' comprehensive with information pointing you in the right direction. Organized into ‘Get Started with Google Sites,’ ‘Create,’ ‘Edit, share & publish,’ ‘Analytics, accessibility & troubleshooting,' and ‘Migrate classic Sites to new Sites,’ you’ll find the articles straightforward with simple step-by-step guides.
If you need more, check out the support forum (Sites Help Community) through ‘Community’. The forum is active with replies that likely provide the answers you need. Search by what is trending, featured, or categories.
Cons: What I Dislike
1. Limited Website Builder
Aside from being a structured website builder with customization options, Google Sites won't give you the complete creative freedom that others do, like Wix. Everything snaps into pre-set grids, and there's no way you can place the elements exactly where you want them. The available themes are seriously a lot less to be desired. Yes, you change colors and fonts, but that's it.
Also, given the limited layout options, there's nothing much to give that X-factor to impact the overall look. Although Google Sites is a functional editor that allows you to get a simple website up fast, it lacks the powerful functions to get your website to soar.
2. Limited Templates
You can see all the available templates at a glance, without much scrolling, which speaks much, doesn't it? There are only 13 base templates that you can explore, which screams the platform's limited intent. Although you can use them for commercial purposes to promote your business, you can tell that the templates are not industry-leading designs.
Google Sites' templates are well, basic, simple, and uninspiring. You can't expect the world from a free service, right? Wix's free plan offers over 800 eye-catching and industry-standard templates. You do the math.
3. Limited Features
Google Sites is overall limited. Aside from expanding the features by connecting to other Google products, YouTube, and social links, there's not much else. To further elaborate, there are not enough features to compete with the major players in this space. The lack of integrations with third-party solutions makes for a limited website with less room for growth.
There are no built-in blog tools or eCommerce capabilities, to name a few. Unlike most other website builders that afford you loads of plugins, Google Sites pale in comparison. Google Sites is remarkably basic.
Google Sites Plans & Pricing
The most enticing thing about Google Sites is that it is completely free forever. Yes, you heard me right. There are zero costs to using Google Sites. Hence, this free plan makes Google Sites easily accessible to a wide spectrum of people.
That said, there could be some associated costs that do not come directly from Google Sites. The first potential cost of using Google Sites is that you may have to purchase your domain if you do not wish to use theirs – yourdomain.com instead of sites.google.com/view/yourdomain.
The second potential cost is storage. Although unlikely since most basic websites do not consume a lot of space, you could incur storage costs if you have surpassed your Google account storage limit. Remember, your Google Sites' storage is linked to your overall Google account.
Alternatives to Google Sites
Compare Google Sites vs. Wix
Wix is a comprehensive website-building tool that offers pure drag-and-drop by-pixel editing with customization options. You build your website via Wix ADI (Wix Artificial Design Intelligence) or Wix Editor. The over 800 free beautiful and industry-leading templates get you started fast to publish your professional website within hours.
No coding knowledge is needed, and you maneuver through the website editor with absolute freedom to design however you want. Being unstructured, Wix's editor gives you complete freedom on a blank canvas with open-ended possibilities. Experienced web designers will appreciate this unlimited creative freedom. Also, powerful add-ons (including eCommerce capabilities) through tons of plugins extend your website functionality.
Google Sites pale in comparison when you're pitting both editors together. However, unlike Google Sites, Wix enforces its branding and uses their domain for the free plan.
Try Wix to build your website for free.
Compare Google Sites vs. Hostinger Website Builder
Hostinger is a solid and affordable web hosting provider with a home-designed hPanel to manage your hosting solution. Aside from VPS hosting, Hostinger offers shared hosting, WordPress, and cloud hosting. The Hostinger Website Builder comes with all their hosting plans. It is a drag-and-drop editor with no coding skills required.
Like Google Sites, the Hostinger Website Builder (aka Zyro in the past) is structured and an intuitive grid tool. There are designer-made templates for your customization and a library of royalty-free images. Artificial design intelligence tools like an AI Writer, an AI Heatmap, and a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tool help to enhance your website.
The eCommerce tools give you the functionalities to launch a fully-functional online store (they do not charge any transaction fees). Unfortunately, Hostinger has no free plan, unlike Google Sites.
Free demo: Try building a site with Hostinger Website Builder
More Google Sites Alternatives
- Other site builders: Wix, Hostinger Website Builder
- Online store builders: Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce
- Traditional hosting providers: Hostinger, InMotion Hosting, TMD Hosting
Our Verdict on Google Sites
Google Sites can be a solid option for low-key websites and for those who wish to manage projects easily while collaborating with others securely—however, anything beyond this and you'll hit a wall of limitations. You are better off elsewhere if you want to build a professional and fully-functional website.
That said, Google Sites is free to use with no hidden fees. Log in to your Google account and start creating your website. It is that easy. All in all, Google Sites is very helpful if you are mindful of its limitations.
Google Sites FAQ
Google Sites is a free, user-friendly website creation tool offered by Google. It's used for creating simple websites, wikis, and intranets without needing to know how to code. It's often used by businesses, teachers, and students for creating project websites or sharing and collaborating on information within a team or organization.
To create a website using Google Sites, log into your Google account and navigate to the Google Sites page. Click on the “Create” button, choose a template, or simply start from scratch, then add content such as text, images, and videos. You can also embed Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets. Once you're done designing your site, you can publish it with a click of a button.
Yes, you can use your own domain with Google Sites, but the process requires a few steps. First, you need to verify your domain ownership with Google, then you need to update your domain's CNAME record with your domain provider to point to “ghs.googlehosted.com”. Note that Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) users have more straightforward options for custom domain mapping.
Once you've created and published your Google Sites website, you can share it by sending people the URL. If you want to allow others to edit the site, go to the “Share with others” option in the settings, add the email addresses of the people you want to share editing privileges with and select “Can edit.”
Yes, Google Sites is designed to be mobile-friendly. It uses responsive design – which means your website will automatically adjust to fit the screen size of the device it's being viewed on, whether that's a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This ensures a good viewing experience for all users, regardless of their device.